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Crime Increase Likely Police Chief Tells Council

She says a court-ordered plan to reduce overcrowding in state prisons will push more offenders into county jails. Counties will put some non-violent offenders on probation and many of them are likely to commit new crimes.

Crime in San Leandro is probably going to increase Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli told City Council members at a special session Monday night.

Spagnoli said the reason for this prediction can be traced to a 2009 federal court order telling California to reduce overcrowding in state prisons.

In April, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill (AB 109) to bring the state into compliance by pushing some future convicts back down onto county jails.

As its part in this process, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors recently finalized a plan to put 848 non-violent felons on probation over the next three years to the Oakland Tribune reported.

The buzzword for this process is realignment and Spagnoli said she and other law enforcement officials see a predictible outcome.

"We know we're going to see the impact of crime going up in the cities," she said.

Spagnoli said a high percentage of offenders put back on the streets will likely go back to crime because they have so few options.

She told of being at a luncheon on the realignment process where, unbeknownst to her and other police officials, each table included a couple of ex-felons.

She said she came away from that event with a new appreciation for what it's like to get released from jail with $800, be unable to get a job with a felony record and probably be without a car to get around.

"They get back into the (criminal justice) system because it's easier," Spagnoli said of repeat offenders. "They get three meals and a shower."

Purpose of meeting was a year-end department review

The discussion on realignment was just one slice of a meeting that lasted over three hours and was meant as a year-end review of the department's performance.

Police officials spent about 90 minutes giving a prepared display. The rest of the meeting was devoted to council member questions and discussion.

In two highlights of the presentation:

-- Spagnoli said about 33,000 San Leandrans live in 137 apartment communities, and these multi-unit dwellings are often crime hot-spots. Police are working with 86 apartment complexes on crime prevention programs and she hopes to bring those successful programs to the rest.

-- The department is now getting an increasing percentage of 911 requests from mobile phones. Mobile calls used to be routed through a regional switchboard but now mobile calls made in San Leandro go directly to local dispatchers.

That's good because it can speed response when a caller uses a mobile phone to request assistance on the street.

But cellular calls don't give the exact location of the caller, unlike those made from land lines. As a result, emergency dispatchers must spend more time asking mobile callers where they are.

The increasing percentage of mobile 911 calls combined with the extra time-per-call have reduced the department's response rate in a key metric.

The state wants 95 percent of 911 calls to be answered within 3 rings. San Leandro is now at 84 percent.

Council voices many thanks and a few questions

Council members found little to dislike in the department's presentation, and were uniformly complimentary of the its performance.

Mayor Stephen Cassidy asked Spanoli whether San Leandro was a safer community than it was a year ago.

She said 2010 was a 30-year low for crime, not just in San Leandro but statewide.

He asked for her three top issues as chief.

She listed crime, especially violent crime which she linked to realignment; traffic complaints which are perennial; and youth issues and "latch key kids."

"Kids either get into trouble or they become victims of crime" when they're out on the street unsupervised, she said.

Cassidy touched on a number of other issues: fear of burglaries among homeowners; a desire for more diversity in police force hiring; the necessity for a SWAT team; and whether there could be more civilian oversight when San Leandro police are asked to assist other cities to quell disturbances, such as has occurred on at least three occasions during Oakland and Berkeley Occupy protests.

Spagnoli said neighborhood watch programs were the most effective deterrent against burglaries. She pledged committment to hiring diversity but said race and gender are not factored into decisions. She said the SWAT team was used 11 times this year in San Leandro, which she described as a high use that justified its continuance.

Spagnoli took issue with Cassidy's comment that he wanted to probe the willingness of fellow council members to provide more civilian oversight to some of the requests for San Leandro officers to be deployed in other cities.

"These phone calls come at 1:30 in the morning and we have to respond by 4:00 am," she said.

Leah Hall December 02, 2011 at 03:44 PM
Excellent report and presentation. Many thanks to all involved! I would like to see more youth resources and youth integration with our community. The cycle of high school student drop out rates and its link with crime and recidivism needs to be rectified. We also need to work closely with neighboring cities, especially Oakland.
David December 02, 2011 at 04:58 PM
If cops were paid merely, at, say the NYC payscale, we could afford twice as many, which would mean we'd have nearly an additional one cop per apartment complex.
Tom Abate (Editor) December 02, 2011 at 05:27 PM
Does SLPD pay twice as much as NYPD?
Marga Lacabe December 02, 2011 at 07:19 PM
Now, Tom, that's exactly what you should find out for us! Actually, I'd be fascinated in an article comparing the salaries of our city employees with those of other big, expensive cities like NYC. Indeed, why not write an article comparing the different salaries + benefits of key employees in all Bay Area cities? It could run in every patch, so it might be worth the effort.
Tom Abate (Editor) December 02, 2011 at 07:30 PM
Well, here's a down payment on that request, Marga, from the job & salary search engine Indeed.com. Average NYC police officer salary $59,000: http://www.indeed.com/salary/q-Police-Officer-l-San-Leandro,-CA-94578.html Average SLPD officer $58,000 http://www.indeed.com/salary/q-Police-Officer-l-San-Leandro,-CA-94578.html That's not the entire roster of city employees and a comparison is a good idea. Let me consider how.
Marga Lacabe December 02, 2011 at 07:45 PM
I don't think that's right, Tom. When we got the COPS grant last year, the SLPD estimated that we'd have to pay $800K to keep those 5 cops in staff for the fourth year (the $2.4M grant paid for the first three years). Now, that's $160K per cop. Some of it will be overhead, but it can't be that much. So my guess is that indeed.com greatly underestimates the compensation of cops. The question, though, is whether they do the same for NYC as they do for San Leandro. Now, there is a list of CA employee public salaries, by city and position. I don't have memorized the URL but Jill posted the link to it some months back. So you can use that to at least compare the salaries of City Managers, Chiefs of Police, Parks Directors, etc. among the different Bay Area cities. The list is good because it looks at salary and total compensation - and as different jurisdictions play differently with salaries (e.g. the city of San Leandro doesn't include health insurance as part of their salary schedule, while the school district does), the relevant number is really total compensation. Perhaps other states publish this type of info as well, and you could then make the comparisons.
Leah Hall December 02, 2011 at 07:48 PM
Bottom pay scale and compensation = highest efficacy, so goes the rational? This strikes me as myopic and tragic. Myopic because framing the problem in this way it is too simplistic to rectify a complex set of interrelated societal problems. Tragic because it is mindless of social justice, human actualization, and our own best interests. If we can ring additional salary and compensation efficiencies out of the department, that would be a step in the positive direction, but it is by no means the end of the story. We need to be educating our next generation and integrating our youth into the larger community. We need an engaged and multi-generational citizenry from all social and economic backgrounds. Too many students are dropping out of our public schools, starting in middle school and earlier - the surest route to crime and substance abuse I know of. I believe that any crime reduction initiative needs to take public education into account in a serious and fiercely resolved manner. I was grateful to see that Chief Spagnoli informed the council that youth and "latch-key" kids were listed as one of her top 3 issues as chief. There are too many kids on the street. Too many kids that lack supervision, mentoring and guidance. Too few opportunities for civic engagement and healthy living. This is a crucial job for all of us. What will we do, California and San Leandro?
Tom Abate (Editor) December 02, 2011 at 07:51 PM
I will look for the link you mention. Meanwhile, does the whole overcrowding, probation, crime increase not interest you, or do you disbelieve it?
Tom Abate (Editor) December 02, 2011 at 07:54 PM
Is this the link, Marga: http://sanleandro.patch.com/articles/the-citys-highest-paid-employees
Leah Hall December 02, 2011 at 08:00 PM
Here's a place to start, anyway, regarding salary and complex retention and efficacy issues of the NYPD: "...the new terms (4 year contract, 2006-10) still leave a substantial gap between the NYPD and nearby departments that pay considerably more, up to $50,000 for new hires and over $100,000 for more experienced officers." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_City_Police_Department
Tim December 02, 2011 at 08:12 PM
NYPD pays very poorly for patrolmen. Starting base pay out of the academy is just under $42K.... after 3.5 years it's about $53K. However, NYPD is a large department and has substantial room for promotion. Most officers can be promoted in this time frame OR, will move on to local town/city, or county jobs in Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk counties. I have friends in various agencies in the tri-state area and they pay, very, very well. Some officers with the Westchester County police make over $125K a year between base and OT (not counting generous benefits. NYPD has arguable the best police academy in the nation and after these guys "pay their dues" in the city, they become very attractive to the small, richer suburbs because they are already trained and don't have to pay to send them to the county academy. Many people will accept the lower pay temporarily for this reason. Last time I was in NY driving on the West Side Hwy, I saw a billboard from the Seattle, WA PD trying to recruit current NYPD officers.
Marga Lacabe December 02, 2011 at 10:04 PM
You know, Spagnoli's belief that crime in San Leandro will increase is just a guess and a self-serving one at that. Will it happen? Who knows! She's right that there are few opportunities for released felons to make an honest living, specially in this economy, and this is definitely something we need to address as a society. On the other hand, a large percentage of people who are in jail right now are not in jail for directly hurting others. I don't think releasing people who are in jail for selling drugs (in particular given that often times drugs are used as currency in the streets) and violating parole for minor things such as hanging out with ex-convicts (often their family members and neighbors) or carrying a gun (often for protection) is likely to have an effect on the type of crime that affects regular citizens (which mostly, among strangers, seems related to larceny) in San Leandro. Plus, as she said, crime seems to be decreasing everywhere in the US, some times more drastically in states that imprison a much lower proportion of people. So I think it's really a "wait and see" type of situation.
Michael Mason December 02, 2011 at 11:52 PM
After only 2 months of realignment, with 70,000 more parolees slated to be transferred to the counties in a couple of years, many of our jails are already full or nearing capacity. Early releases are the norm, for both serious and non serious offenders. In Fresno County, the Sheriff recently announced that they will no longer be booking parole violators due to a lack of jail space. This includes child molesters, rapists and murders currently on parole. If a Parole Agent tracks his sex offender to a park and finds him pushing a 10 year old in a swing, there are no consequences in Fresno County - unless the consequence is placing a 2nd GPS on his body. This will soon be standard operation throughout CA as our jails are filled with state prisoners. Is anybody paying attention? Somebody better start taking a close look at what is being done to our criminal justice system. The current system under realignment is simply not sustainable. Too much, too fast.The first order of business in January should be for the legislature to take pause and ask the CA Supreme Court for an extension of time to meet the Supreme Court prisoner release order, as was suggested by the Supreme Court itself at the time of the decision.
Michael Mason December 02, 2011 at 11:52 PM
......... This is a huge and complex tasks that requires careful thought and planning. It should not be rushed in order to satisfy a budget deadline, or worse yet, to allow the State to quickly wash their hands of the responsibility of public safety. As soon as Jerry Brown signed off on this legislation his first words were "There's no turning back now." Almost sounds like "Tag. You're it." That is irresponsible and dangerous, as well as dishonest. Amendments, and Repeal, are always an option. Somethings got to give........
David December 03, 2011 at 06:40 AM
$53k for a guy in his mid-20's is not only well above median college graduate wage, but it also doesn't take into account benefits. Now I hear all kinds of arguments why Bay Area cops *deserve* higher comp, and one very frequently posited argument is cost of living. Well, it's sure as heck cheaper to live here than NYC, yet they pay their cops far less (and have no shortage of qualified applicants in NYC, which demonstrates in the real world that the pay is not "very poor"). *Some officers* in Westchester County? Well, try to find a single beat cop here who's made *less* than $100k last year (and worked the full year). http://www.mercurynews.com/salaries/bay-area/2010 The minimum gross cash comp (not counting benefits) of a SL police officer (not sergeant, not lieutenant, not captain), was $84,919 last year. 90% of police officers in SL grossed $100k+ in cash comp last year. Now again, you may think that every cop in the Bay Area *should* make more than, well, 90% of the population in cash, and have benefits that equate to a nest egg of around $2M at the age of 50, but the fact is that since we're paying them that much, we can't afford to be anywhere near the policing levels of the rest of the country (NYC has ~40,000 cops, 1:200 people, if we had police staff at that level, we'd have 400 cops, not ~80, most cities in the US have about 1 cop per 300-400 people, not 1:1000+ like here).
Tim December 03, 2011 at 08:11 PM
David, you don't have to tell me about cost of living. I used to live in White Plains (Westchester County) and the tri-state area definitely has a higher cost of living than here (it's probably the only other place that does though). I agree with you that NYPD pays fair salary and benefits, however, you can't survive on $53K a year in NYC, even if you live in the worst neighborhood in the south Bronx. The reason NYPD has no shortage of recruits is as I said. They have the finest academy in the nation and receive the best training. They go beyond basic police training given here in CA. They work in conjunction with homeland security and have a fine anti-terror program. These young officers pay their dues there for a few years, then either move up the ladder or move to better paying departments. The reason SL officers are pulling in so much is the OT. It's cheaper to pay out the OT than to hire more officers.
David December 04, 2011 at 04:43 AM
The median household income in NYC is $54,000 or so. So a starting cop or relatively young single cop in NYC makes the median household (which often has 2 earners) income in NYC. The median household income in San Leandro is around $51k. The lowest paid cop here makes 1.6 times the median household income, and that's cash comp, not counting the benefits. The "overtime" argument is spurious too. If the pay weren't so high, it wouldn't be more beneficial to pay overtime versus hiring another cop, and second, no other professional who makes $100k++/year is an hourly worker who gets overtime; they're all salaried--if you get called in to work extra on Saturday, you do it and don't get paid extra for it.
Leah Hall December 05, 2011 at 04:38 PM
On youth issues and "latch key" students, I recommend this article which appeared in the Bay Citizen and the New York Times about some cool youth programs in SF. Battling Truancy - on a Boat: Hands-on classes at Downtown High School help SF district cut chronic truancy http://www.baycitizen.org/education/story/battling-truancy-boat/
Leah Hall December 05, 2011 at 04:57 PM
On another tack, my concern is not so much that a 'brisk-paced' transfer is planned (in addition to associated risks, there are lots of social positives, after all) but that a parallel investment of resources for counties will not materialize (i.e., Sacramento will keep the money for other uses). Will their be sufficient budget allocations and resources for best practices at the county level?
Tim December 06, 2011 at 04:30 AM
With all due respect but if I wouldn't compare what I do for a living to what police officers do. The fact that they put their lives on the line every time they begin a tour is enough for me let alone the crap they get from the low lives out there. And I don't just mean hardened criminals. Look at the Occupy protests and the crap they have to deal with from these loons. The average patrolman making 80-100K a year is NOT overpaid imo. The OT needs to be brought under control though. It's not their salaries that make it more expensive to hire more officers, it's their benefits (pension, medical, etc.) I agree we need to make cuts but have you seen what some of these public sector bureaucrats make a year? Take a look at some of the school district employee salaries. We should be cutting the fat and not going after law enforcement.
David December 06, 2011 at 01:33 PM
Tim, I'm all for cutting all levels of bureaucracy. Problem is that public safety takes up nearly 2/3 of the city budget so there is very little room to cut everything else without cutting the police/fire budget in order to bring the whole budget in line with income/inflation/population growth. Cutting pension and medical, I agree would be the most effective way to bring that in-line, but it still amounts to a cut in compensation, and no one on the public sector side has been willing to "share that sacrifice," preferring instead to tax us more (see: Jerry Brown yet again working to jack up taxes on another ballot initiative, and of course SL trying for another parcel tax).
Tim December 06, 2011 at 10:30 PM
Yea, I heard about Moonbeams ballot initiative. The problem is that half the population is made up on leeches that pay no taxes and won't be affected by any tax increase so they will vote for it. The half that does pay taxes is a shrinking number as more and more flee the state of California. The proof is in the 2010 census. If it weren't so hot and dry in AZ, I'd be gone too. I don't know about SL PD but I know many smaller departments that have few patrolmen and an excessive number of paper pushers (assistant chiefs, captains, lieutenants, etc) that have bloated salaries and we could probably do with a less of them and I'm all for pension reform, but I don't think officers' salaries are excessive.

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